Microsoft Research seeking academic proposals for HoloLens, giving away $100,000 prizes

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While some continue to pit Microsoft’s augmented reality headset HoloLens against Sony’s support for virtual reality with Project Morpheus, a much broader discussion is being overlooked. With one foot in gaming, Microsoft’s ambitions for HoloLens reach beyond the traditional living room entertainment.

According to Microsoft Research, “Microsoft believes that mixed reality can be used to create new experiences that will contribute to advances in productivity, collaboration, and innovation.” HoloLens in its current production is shaping up to be much more of a tool for collaboration, production, communication, and research much more than a gaming device. As Microsoft continues push its ‘productivity’ campaign, the company is making its intentions much clearer for HoloLens.

Recently, the folks over at Microsoft Research have begun engaging with researchers from various disciplines to start testing the boundaries of HoloLens’ potential. Currently, Microsoft Research is accepting Academic Research Request for HoloLens proposals. Microsoft’s Research team outlines the submission guidelines and request as follows:

The primary objective of this request for proposals (RFP) is to understand better the role and possible applications for holographic computing in society. Additional goals are to stimulate and advance academic research in mixed reality and encourage applications of holograms for novel purposes. Some of the examples given for HoloLens applications include data visualization, remote training, interactive art and experimental media as well as human-computer interactions.

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Microsoft Researchers will also acknowledge efforts with monetary and hardware rewards for researchers. Specifically:

Monetary and hardware awards

  • Microsoft anticipates making approximately five (5) awards consisting of US$100,000 and two Microsoft HoloLens development kits each. All awards are in the form of unrestricted gifts, which are delivered directly to the universities for the purpose of funding the winning proposals.
  • The awards are intended to be used for seed-funding larger initiatives, proofs of concept, or demonstrations of feasibility. It is important to understand that funding is not expected to continue after the first year and that PIs who are granted the Microsoft HoloLens Research Awards should, therefore, make every effort to use the award as one component of a diverse funding base in a larger or longer-running project. Proposals with a clear plan to secure co-funding are encouraged.


As for eligibility, this process seems to be open to anyone. The research team is actually looking for more cross-disciplinary teams to participate. However, to accurately qualify, “institutions must have access to the knowledge, resources, and skills necessary to carry out the proposed research,” according to Microsoft Research teams. Perhaps this goes without saying, but all participating universities or research institutions need to be accredited degree-granting universities or research institutions with a non-profit status.

Image Credit: Microsoft

As for specific conditions, submission and selection processes, the Microsoft Research team goes into further detail here.

While there has not been any insider knowledge given on how Sony’s Project Morpheus may expand its usage outside of gaming, it does seem that Microsoft is left alone, yet again, banking on a multi-level strategy. The last time Microsoft made a play for the multi-use device against Sony’s laser-focused agenda, the results were below expectation for both the market and Microsoft. However, unlike the Xbox, which stood in a clearly defined market, Microsoft’s HoloLens currently resides in a nebulous market that Microsoft can help establish. 

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